Ally Geist is a fourth-year student at Dalhousie University doing a major in theatre with a minor in French. Throughout her time at Dalhousie Geist has taken on multiple roles to be an advocate for mental health.
When Geist was in her third year, she joined the Wear Your Label team. Wear Your Label is a conscious clothing company that aims to de-stigmatize mental health through slogans on clothing, and starting conversations about mental health through the clothes people wear.
Geist took on the role of campus rep for Dalhousie. In this role, Geist has the responsibility of writing blog posts once a month for the Wear Your Label website and organizing events on campus or for Dal students focused on their mental health.
Geist has also joined the Dalhousie jack.org chapter, where she’s had the opportunity to be a talk speaker, where she gives “Mental Health 101” classes at local high schools. Jack.org is an organization that runs nationwide, where youth take on leadership roles in mental health initiatives.
Mental health advocacy became important to Geist when she started feeling anxious and wasn’t able to recognize her own symptoms
“We all have mental health so, we all need to be working towards taking care of it,” said Geist. “But I realized if I wasn’t really able to recognize signs of mental distress in myself maybe there are a lot of other people who can’t.”
Growing up, Geist hadn’t heard of people having conversations about mental health. The stigma was heavily present in society, and she was taught things like walking faster past a mental health hospital.
The stigma made it harder for her to recognize what she was going through, and for the longest time she was in denial.
“I think I kind of chalked it up to university transitions and being away from my twin sister for the first time and all of these things.”
After speaking with coworkers at her job as a residence assistant she begun to realize that there needed to be a change with how mental health was discussed and dealt with.
“I kind of had the mindset that if we want to change something, and we want to kind of improve the way society thinks about an issue we have to get people when they are young to start learning about it, so it sort-of becomes like second nature to them,” said Geist.
The more conversations Geist had, the more she got involved with mental health advocacy in Halifax.
“I think it’s something that hits close to home for a lot of people, whether its themselves or through family and friends,” said Geist. “But I feel like it’s such an awkward conversation to have and it doesn’t really need to be.”
If you want to get more involved on campus, check out Dalhousie’s jack.org chapter on Facebook, and make sure to keep an eye out for upcoming events from your Wear Your Label campus rep, Ally Geist.
“I feel like there’s always opportunities to get involved, and sometimes you have to create them,” said Geist. “There’s always someone who wants to hear your voice, you just have to seek them out sometimes.”